So You Want To Be a Worship Leader

worshipleader

It wasn’t too many years ago when the worship leader was a rare position in the church.  Now you can get a formal education specifically to be a worship leader.  It is becoming very popular and the opportunities are rapidly growing for worship leaders today.  I have been doing this professionally for about 7 years now and absolutely love what I do but that being said there are some things I wish I was told before jumped in.  So if you are looking to become a worship leader here are some helpful thing every worship leader should know as they think about entering that ministry.  Granted I don’t have the most experience but so far in my ministry career these are some things that I have found helpful.

10. Learn to play your instrument.  No REALLY learn to play your instrument. You should never stop improving your craft.  4 chords and a capo wont cut it. (if you play guitar obviously).  Take piano lessons, guitar lessons, voice lessons, and more.  This is a gift God has given you, don’t be lazy with it. Continue reading…

Inspiration: Let it Be Known

If the first single to the upcoming WorshipCentral release is any gauge of the upcoming music – I am encouraged and excited.  Yes it’s basically a dance worship track… But for some reason I can’t stop listening to it.

Thoughts…

5 Easy Ways to Improve Your Worship Services

worshiptips

As worship leaders we should always be looking for ways to improve our services.  There is no magic formula for doing so.  In fact there is no measure by which we can, across the board, judge success or betterment when it comes to our worship services.  But each of us know when we have a weekend is better or more successful than others.  So what can we do to improve?  There are any number of ways but here are five easy ways I have found very useful.

1. Pray
I know that seems simple.  You probably already do so on your own, with your team, or with a prayer group.  But it is something that can’t be missed or overlooked.  It’s more than just circling up before you take the platform.  It’s prayer over what songs are being picked.  What service elements are being implemented.  It’s prayer over each detail that goes into a weekend.  As the great amateur theologian M.C. Hammer once pontificated, “That’s word, we pray, pray, ah yeah, we pray, pray. We got to pray just to make it today.”

2. Watch Yourself
In my  head I picture how I think I’m coming across when I move, or speak, or lead.  Having watched myself back consistently I discovered… I was wrong.  Thinking I was coming across one way and discovering it wasn’t as I had pictured made me think about each and every movement I made.  It’s humbling to do so. At times it’s hard to do so.  But watching yourself and your team can only help you identify things that hinder and benefit a service.  It’s as simple as setting up a static camera in the back with just the room mic on it.  If you multi track or record your services in a different manner, try to get as raw of a sound or as much natural feel you can.  I can sound as good as I want with the right plug-ins and tweaks but that doesn’t help me improve my stage presence, singing, or much else.  I suggest a room mic just to get a feel for the liveness.

3. Watch Others
Just as watching yourself helps you identify things about you on the platform, so does watching other churches.  I spend a portion of my mondays first watching back the service from yesterday and also watching the worship services from a few other churches.  It’s what we naturally do when we go to another church or attend a conference; picking up on little things here and there that seem effective, that you like, or you think would benefit your services.  So take some time each week and check out what other churches are doing.  I suggest checking out a church much larger than yours, a church smaller than yours and maybe one similar in size to see how each are using their resources to create their particular worship environment.  Check out Worship Set Ideas for a good place to start.

4. Transitions, Transitions, Transitions
Nothing is more distracting than awkward transitions.  And let’s face it even the best slip up from time to time and things happen.  But with some planning and thinking ahead you can help minimize them.  How does one song flow into another?  Do you need a hard stop and some talking? Can you start the next song with some rhythmic drums or a keys pad?  How do you transition from you last song to the message? Is a bumper needed? A greeting time?  All of these things can help keep the flow of service smooth.  If you take time when planning each service to think through your transitions your quickly find that things gel quicker and seem so much smoother.  Any way we can remove distractions only improves our worship services.

5. Communicate
There’s nothing worse than lack of communication.  So many things can be taken care of, prepared better, or just simply fixed ahead of time if communication takes place.  Being able to send a guitar player parts to look at for rehearsal ahead of rehearsal.  Being able to talk with your pastor about the direction he is heading helps plan songs, moments, or elements that connect on a deeper level.  Telling the keyboard player when to lay out ahead of time rather than in the heat of rehearsal right before service alleviates potential tension.  We all think communication happens and we do pretty well with it.  But that doesn’t mean it couldn’t get better.  The first step I took at communicating better was, while planning the services I would listen through each song an jot down notes for my players.  I would then email them out ahead of time so we could talk about them before we even got to rehearsal.  The result has been smoother rehearsals, overall happier players cause they aren’t spending time practicing one thing then I let them know the day before I want something else.  The result has been better moments in service that seem to connect on a deeper level than before.  Communication can’t be overlooked.  A good rule of thumb is over communication is better than a lack there of.

None of the ideas mentioned above are tremendously difficult to employ.  In fact they are super easy to do no matter where you are in your ministry.  Hopefully these help you achieve what only you can determine as better worship services.

Christmas At The Crossing Church 2012

Christmas

Ok so cards on the table, Christmas isn’t my favorite time of the year.  There I said it.  Wheew, what a weight off my shoulders.  We don’t need to get into the details of why but suffice it to say that each Advent season my Grinch mug replaces whatever vessel was in use prior to this season.  That being said, I do realize what an opportunity it is to use creativity, art, music, and more to share the real message of the season.  I am one who believes worship leaders should share as much as possible at all times of the year but especially during the big times like Christmas and Easter.

What you are doing at your church can help inspire others in their efforts in their respective churches.  So that’s why I’m finally blogging again after a long hiatus that was really just due to not making time for it.

First: Advent Devotionals
As a pastoral staff we created an Advent devotional for our Faith Family to share.  Each pastor took 3 readings we had pulled from the Lectionary Year C and wrote a short devotional based on those readings.  We decided to use The Message translation as to make it a very comforting and story like read.  We printed them in house and made them into little booklets whose final size was 8.5″ x 5.5″. I wasn’t sure what the response would be so we printed what we would normally  print for worship folders each week and well we underestimated the interest in them (note: we did not hand them out as people entered but as they left.  we let everyone know they were available if they wanted one – this way we avoided just giving them to every person who walks in that my have a reading plan, or just plain wouldn’t use it.)
Here is a link to our devotional in an easy to print and assemble at home .pdf 

Second: Children’s Program
Our children’s department put on a wonderful weekend of The Secret of Snowflake County. We have them take of the weekend services with a little acoustic worship and message time mixed in.  You can find pictures here on our Facebook Page

Third: “Carols” Production
To be honest, all of the choral products I had received in promotion for what to purchase were a huge let down.  Nothing really struck me as good; at all.  So we decided to arrange our own choral music for this program.  We pulled a lot from the Lifechurch.tv album, Carols.  We also pulled inspiration from Church on the Move (Joy to the World, O Holy Night, Christmas Story), Hillsong, and Others.  We were able to arrange songs that fit us so much better than any other boxed production.  The catch was well I had never arranged and written music like that before so the choir may have received some sheet music only weeks before the event.  I am very glad we decided to do so, however I would have loved to have started much earlier.

Fourth: Christmas Weekend
It has always been my philosophy to present Christmas weekend and Easter Weekend as who you are every other day of the year.  I don’t like to do big productions, extra flashy, or extra traditional things that don’t represent who you are every other weekend.  The thought process there is that those days you are most likely to have more guests than any other time of the year, why present yourself as something you are not?  shouldn’t we try to encourage them to come back with a picture of who we really are?  So this year we are doing basically a normal worship service.  We do have a pretty cool opening version of O Come O Come Emmanuel.  We are using the Future of Forestry version interspersed with some Amena Brown poetry.  Here is an example of that presentation (we obviously played live but for you to get the idea)

Fifth: Christmas Eve
I like that we keep our Christmas Eve services simple and family oriented.  We sing standard carols led from guitar in-between portions of the Christmas Readings from Luke.  There is a moment when the children are invited on stage to hear our Children’s pastor read a story to them (and we put the pictures on the screens for all to follow along with.) We share family communion together – that’s where one person representing the family comes and gets a small plate with enough elements on it for the whole family.  They return and share a time of prayer and communion together as a family.  It is a nice peaceful evening that keeps the focus where it should be.

Sixth: Vacation
I go on vacation ha ha.  Ok not every year but usually I tend to take some time to recharge after what can be a very intense season.

Bonus:
We used this version of God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen as an opener the first week of Advent this year.  We did slow it down a smidgen and well I actually tuned my guitar… but you get the idea of the Mumford and Sons inspired version.  It was a lot of fun and was received extremely well.

 

I would love to know what you are doing this year!  Share in the comments below.

I Am Humbled and Blessed

This past weekend was our Worship Choir presentation of We Have Our Savior (the least Christmasy Christmas project I could find ha ha)  What a tremendous weekend we had 60 choir members singing their hearts out celebrating the God made flesh born to rescue a lost people.  It was a phenomenal weekend and I can’t say enough about how well they did and how great they sounded!  It is truly a blessing to be part of such a great church and a great worship arts department!  And to my surprise they took the time to put together a great poem of thanks and gratitude for me and used it to make fun of me in front of everyone ha ha; it was epic.  I am blessed.  See poem below.

Inspiration: Gungor Ghosts Upon The Earth

I am so excited for this album to come out! I had always been a fan of Gungor but when I first put Beautiful Things into my CD player and pressed play I instantly dropped everything and just listened to the album from start to finish. I had intended to just have it play while I worked but ended up not working and intently listening to the record. It has been one of the most played albums I own. That has made me even more excited for the next record Ghosts Upon The Earth due to release September 20th.

Re-Visioned Hymns: A Resource Guide

Hymns are making a comeback. Well you could argue that they have never really gone anywhere to begin with. But with the praise and worship craze that swept across the evangelical nation the hymn was something that was replaced with the praise chorus and relegated to the insignificant in many churches. The seeker service saw better results with more contemporary language and sounds. That is not to say that they disappeared all together but the shift from hymnbooks to powerpoint and beyond has seen the decline in hymn use.
Cue a new generation looking to connect the contemporary worship they were brought up in while desiring to learn the roots in which the church took shape. Now you have re-presented hymns introduced as new worship to a generation who didn’t necessarily know them growing up. Some have contemporized language (some thankfully with more gender neutral language others just to present hymns in a language the worshippers are speaking). Drums, pads, guitars, banjos, and more added to bring a new life to wonderfully written theological songs.
I have fallen in love with some and others prefer the more traditional. Here is a list (by no means extensive) of some groups re-presenting hymns for the next generation.

Resolved Muisc: The Enfield Hymn Sessions – Absolutely have fallen in love with There is a Fountain as well as many others on the list.
Bart Millard: Hymned No. 1 and Hymned Again: The MercyMe front man released a couple great Hymn compilations that have inspired my song selection.
Passion: Hymns Ancient and Modern: If there is one group associated with the desire to reach the next generation it’s Passion
Jars of Clay: Redemption Songs – this group has been one of my favorite for a long time so when they released an album of hymns, I jumped on it.
Covenant Life Church: How Sweet the Sound: Good collection of hymns to spark your creativity.
Page CXVI: Hymns I, Hymns II, and Hymns III: One of my most recent favorites. Wonderfully thought out remakes that just inspire you to sing a new song.
Red Mountain Church: More great hymns presented beautifully
Indelible Grace Music: Another group that just keeps coming up with creative ways to re-present music.

These are just some groups that I have been listening to as of late to be inspired. What else is out there? What are you listening too?

What Make a Hymn a Hymn?

This conversation was sparked in a former post by trying to figure out the difference between a hymn and a modern hymn. And I’ve been having this conversation with people around me ever since. What defines a hymn? What is it that makes us use the term hymn for some songs and worship song for others? Instrumentation? Meter or style? Year written? Chord progressions? Melody?

Here is what the dictionary says.

hymn |him|
noun
a religious song or poem, typically of praise to God or a god : a Hellenistic hymn to Apollo.
• a formal song sung during Christian worship, typically by the whole congregation.
• a song, text, or other composition praising or celebrating someone or something : a most unusual passage like a hymn to the great outdoors.

With that definition, what’s the difference between a hymn and anything modern worship song we sing? One of the major discussions in a lot of church settings is the use or non-use of hymns in worship? Is there something other than the year a song was written that defines it as a hymn?

What do you think? Is there a difference between hymns and other songs used in worship?